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Design History

Where to Find Images: Online Collections

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How to Use Images: Copyright Issues

Blueprints, drawings, designs, models, and images of finished works of architecture are copyrighted: that means United States Copyright Law (a federal law) grants the creator of an original work the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute their work. However, the rights are limited in duration and subject to some exceptions, or limitations, which permit people the use of a copyrighted work without the copyright holder's (the creator's) permission, under certain conditions. 

  • Here is a link to Brown University Library's guide for images and copyright:

Copyright and Ethics of Image Use by Karen Bouchard

One often-permitted use of copyrighted material is for purposes of "fair use"--see the Fair Use box below.

How to Use Images: Fair Use

The policy of "Fair Use" allows scholars, students, teachers, and others to use works that are still in copyright protection for the purpose of education and criticism. This does not mean that any use is fair as long as it is for educational purposes, but education is specifically mentioned as a favored purpose.

  • Here is a link to Northwestern University's Center for Scholarly Communication and Digital Curation's guide to copyright and fair use:

Scholarly Communication: Copyright by the CSCDC

  • For more info, here is a link to the MIT Libraries' guide for images and fair use:

Using Images: Copyright and Fair Use by Ellen Duranceau

How to Use Images: Public Domain images and Creative Commons licenses

Works of art and images in the public domain are no longer copyrighted in the United States because the time limit of the copyright has run out. Works created before 1923 are now in the public domain and freely available for anyone to use. Here is a clear, short guide that explains other factors in public domain works:

Works of art and images that were copyrighted by their creators with a Creative Commons license are also available for others to use, either with some restrictions chosen by their creators, or with no restrictions at all. Here is the Creative Commons website, which explains factors in Creative Commons works:

How to Use Images: For Publication

To aid art historians in finding images for publication, the College Art Association has a detailed guide:

Where to Find Images: Repository || Images at Northwestern University

Repository | Images logo

Repository || Images at Northwestern University is a collection of over 114,000 images relating to art, architecture, anthropology, and the humanities (this collection is called the Digital Image Library when logged in). There are also images from our Distinctive Collections.

Search for images by entering keyword terms in "Search" at the top of the page.

Narrow your search results by using the facets on the left side of the page under "Limit your search". Click on the arrows to expand the lists of facets/words. Then click on any of the words to view the related images. Notice that your search terms appear towards the top of the page and can be deleted one by one by clicking on the X.

Gather images from your search results and build "Image Groups" by using "create new image group" on the upper left side of the page. Enter the title for the group and press the return button on your keyboard. Add a single image to a group by dragging it over, or add multiple images by clicking the checkboxes under the images and dragging one of the selected images into the group. Please note that you may have to wait a few minutes for all your images to appear in your group.

Your personal groups will appear on the left side of the page. Click on the title of a group to open it. Reorder images in a group by clicking and holding on the title of the image (below the thumbnail) and drag the image either to the right or left of another image. To delete an image from a group, click the "x" on its upper right corner of the image.

Export images into a PowerPoint presentation by opening an "Image Group" and clicking on "Export to PowerPoint". The PowerPoint presentation will be emailed to you. Check your email for the message and download the PowerPoint from there.

Make this Group Private || Share this Group allows you to make your groups private or public. You can copy the link and share it with your class by adding it to Canvas or Blackboard.


The example above shows the login screen.


The example above shows the screen which appears after entering a search term.

The example above shows an image with the associated metadata, or descriptive information.

For More Image Help: The Repository and Digital Curation Department at Northwestern University Libraries

Digital Collections staff are available to help you learn to scan images and use their Repository || Images tool effectively through one-on-one training. 

Where to Find Images: Library Databases

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How to Use Images: Tips & Advice

  1. Almost any image you find online or in library databases, or scan from a book, or photograph yourself may be used under the educational fair use policy for class papers, class presentations, and even websites if they are closed sites only available to your own educational community.
  2. You should still cite every image you use for the educational purposes above, describing the original creator and the source of the image you're using.
  3. For any work you publish formally (even in a department newsletter or anything publicly accessible online), you should use only non-copyrighted images (public domain images) or those made available for the purpose with a creative commons license; or you must obtain explicit permission from the copyright holder (sometimes you have to pay the copyright holder for the right to reproduce an image).
  4. Any published / publicly available images you use in your work should be clearly cited, describing the original creator and the source of the image, and the permissions you were given to use it, if required.

For More Copyright Help: The Center for Scholarly Communication and Digital Curation at Northwestern University Libraries